At the beginning of June, an Independent Media publication, Pretoria News, broke the story that a Gauteng woman named Gosiame Thamara Sithole, 37, had reportedly given birth to 10 children. This would have been a Guinness World Record for the most children born in the same birth.
Initially, many people welcomed the news and congratulated Sithole, but when days passed and no photos of the babies were shared, people started to doubt the story.
A few weeks after the alleged birth of the decuplets, the Gauteng department of health released a media statement saying that “the Gauteng provincial government conducted a thorough check with all hospitals in the province to establish the veracity or otherwise of the reports”.
The department stated that none of the public or private hospitals in Gauteng had records of the births. The department denied that the government was trying to cover up “medical negligence”.
“These allegations are false, unsubstantiated and only serve to tarnish the good reputation of Steve Biko Academic Hospital and the Gauteng provincial government,” it said in a statement.
He said Sithole was put into a psychiatric hospital by the state and was threatened that she should say she was never pregnant.
Survé said the report reveals that senior health officials, members of hospital management at Thembisa and Steve Biko hospitals and other government officials are involved in what's believed to be a “child trafficking syndicate”.
He alleged this involves taking babies from the country to West Africa. “The babies are used for muti, cosmetic surgery and stem cells,” he said.
“The government has to answer one question to all of us: where are the babies right now?”
Advocate Michael Donen, who chaired an independent external inquiry, also presented his findings.
Dr Mpho Pooe, an obstetrician and gynaecologist who says she assessed Sithole, gave a report of her assessment of Sithole during the briefing. Pooe alleged that Sithole's records have now been deleted from the system.
“She doesn't exist on the system, even the invoices of the ambulance which transported her don't exist,” she said.
She, however, confirmed that Sithole was pregnant.
Highlights from Survé's presentation:
A few hours after this presentation, the Gauteng government released a statement saying it is taking legal action against the Independent media group.
“The provincial government has instructed the state attorney to institute legal action against the Independent Media group. A senior counsel has been briefed and court papers will be served on the Independent Media in due course,” it said.
Listen to the spokesperson to premier David Makhura, Vuyo Mhaga:
Questions continued to be asked of Pretoria News and its editor, Piet Rampedi, who wrote the story. However, Rampedi and Independent Media did not change their tune.
“I stand by my story. Ms Sithole was pregnant and gave birth to her 10 babies on June 7 2021. It’s a fact,” Rampedi said amid fake news accusations.
On Wednesday, Independent Media presented its investigation into the report of the birth of decuplets.
The media organisation clarified at the start of the session that Wednesday's media conference was not the complete story and updates would follow.
In the media briefing Dr Iqbal Survé, executive chairperson of Independent Media, spoke at the media briefingon the outcomes of the investigation.
“This has been a very dangerous investigation” he said.
Survé said the woman was diagnosed as pregnant with six babies in December 2020 at Steve Biko Academic Hospital. Her second scan was done in January or February at Sunninghill Hospital where the scan showed eight babies. According to the inquiry, Sithole gave birth to 10 babies but two of the babies died.
He said the mother saw the babies for two days and was then informed that they were sent to George Mukhari Hospital due to medical complications.
He said the newborns were then taken to a Nigerian doctor who helped Sithole at Sunninghill Hospital. Survé said the Nigerian doctor used a different name and it is now difficult to find him.